They were just two old men sitting on the same bench in the park; they didn’t know each other. So it surprised them when the boys walking by, thinking the men wouldn’t hear, promised each other that someday they’d be like them. Each man considered turning to the other to share a perplexed chuckle, but thought it better not to. “That’s gonna be you and me someday,” they’d said.
Six months later, one of the men became ill, and he knew he was going to die. He had long forgotten about the boys in the park. He thought himself lucky to have lived so long, and his mind turned to acquaintances who had died young and suddenly, years before. He couldn’t remember their names or faces – they were simply, “girl, car crash, right after high school” and “colleague, suicide, some time in the mid-80s”. He didn’t feel guilty about not remembering; he had more important things to regret, anyway.
For one, the man never had children, and as he lay in the dark, alone, he pondered what that meant. It meant there was no one he could look at to see what his nose used to look like. He never married, either, which meant his obituary wouldn’t say, “He is survived by…”
Around that same time, the boys said goodbye to each other in a parking lot. One of the boys said, “I meant it when I said I wanted us to end up like the happy old men we saw, remember? I’m sorry.” And the other boy cried because he wanted that, too, and was sorry, too. He cried because he could no longer believe that once you found someone who you could just sit with and not have to say a word, and feel completely at peace and not even a little bit empty, you’d get to do exactly that, forever. The boy wondered how many years and how many other boys there would be before that could happen.
When they hugged for the last time, the boy who had cried closed his eyes so that he could remember the moment by how it felt and how it smelled, and not by a vanity license plate or a fluttering fast food wrapper. The other kept his eyes open and noticed a woman watching from her car. He decided to let her be the one to break eye contact.
When she finally looked away, the woman exhaled forcefully and pretended there was something interesting happening on her phone screen. She tried to remember the last person who had made her cry like that. No one came to mind.
Jared Wolf is a marketing professional slowly pursuing his creative passions of writing and stand-up comedy. His non-fiction has been seen in Conscious Magazine.
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Art modified wonderferret / Olafur Eliasson CC2.0